MILAN (Reuters) - Prime Minister Mario Monti has turned to the Internet to ask Italians for tips on how his government could cut public spending as part of efforts to save 4.2 billion euros ($5.5 billion) before the end of the year.
Suggestions can be sent to the Italian government through a simple on-line form on its website (www.governo.it), which has attracted around a thousand responses since launching on Monday.
Monti launched a tough austerity program including tax hikes and pension reform at the end of last year, and is now looking to cut mammoth public spending, hoping to delay a planned further increase of value added tax.
His government is boosting the use of web technologies to improve transparency and communication with citizens.
High public spending is an area of particular grievance among Italians, who have developed deep distrust in their ruling class amid reports of mismanagement and corruption investigations.
"Complaints about the cost of the political machine and tax evasion are the issues most commonly addressed by citizens," says Gianluca Sgueo, who coordinates the team sifting through some 5,000 emails and letters that are sent to the Italian government every month.
"Messages vary from complaints about a certain politician making too much money to detailed suggestions on taxation," Sgueo told Reuters. He said he expected the feedback on possible spending cuts to exceed average monthly traffic.
Monti, a respected technocrat appointed six months ago to put Italy's fiscal house in order and avert a default, appointed a task force of economists this week charged with identifying areas of public spending that can be pruned or eliminated.
The group is led by Enrico Bondi, who spearheaded the successful turnaround and re-listing of dairy group Parmalat after it buckled under a massive accounting fraud. ($1 = 0.7603 euros)
(Reporting By Lisa Jucca; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)